Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Nails, Death, Love That Survives

The nails are not just pointed, as one would expect, but jagged along the edges.  There's still bark on the beam they're nailing him to.  You want to picture that wood still in the tree, not the form it takes here, as a method of torture.  You cannot bear to watch him nailed to that beam, and then the lifting up.  The blood streaming from his hands, the thorned crown still on his head.  But you're there, even though others have fled.  His mother is next to you; you wish she was not here to see this.  Mary Magdalene as well.  But they, too, look like they're staying.  They will not flee.

This afternoon is full of nails, the soldiers hoisting him up; you hear him groan as they pull the beam into place.  Bitter wine on a cloth put to his lips.  Words exchanged with thieves.  Lungs that cannot find enough air.  A crying out.  Death.  This man who is not only a man has died a human's death.  Not a death that is antiseptic, free of all pain and anxiety, with the support of loved ones all around, but the most gruesome type of human death, a death characterized by skillful torture, derision, abandonment.  And yet he says -- you can hear it from where you stand, twenty feet away -- "Father, forgive them."

Here's what I get out of good Friday:  The God I worship loves me, and all people, enough that even when we do our worst to him, he does not reject us but continues to love us and seeks to transform us through mercy, forgiveness, and hope.  I've killed Christ a thousand times through my sinfulness, and yet he still loves me enough to want a serious relationship with me.  Unearned grace.  Amazing grace indeed.

In the end, I find I must embrace a God who loves me (and everyone) that much.  God wins me over by loving the human race in the midst of our killing him.  Love that survives death; love that heals sinners.  On Good Friday, on Calvary hill.

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